Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Inter/vention: Free Play in the Age of Electracy

Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Inter/vention: Free Play in the Age of Electracy

Article excerpt

Inter/vention: Free Play in the Age of Electracy Jan Rune Holmevik Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012. Contents, notes, references, index, charts. 204 pp. $28.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780262017053

"Just as agents seeking to express themselves in alphabetic writing need to be literate, that is master the discourses and conventions of writing, egents who seek to express themselves in digital media need to be electrate ( p. 4)." Jan Rune Holmevik frames his book Inter/vention: Free Play in the Age of Electracy with Gregory Ulmer's theory of electracy (competence in digital technology), while pulling from Derrida and Heidegger as well. The author adds to the theory that electracy does not supplant literacy, just as literacy did not supplant orality; rather, electracy is informed by literacy. He argues that the deepest way to understand the importance and vitality of the electrate life is to study play and how play shapes one's electracy. Adopting Ulmer's theory that play is the behavior inherent in an electrate life, Holmevik traces the digital landscape from its inception-weaving the idea of electracy as play through it and exploring everything from informatics and the rise of modern computing all the way to massively multiplayer gaming practices. He foregrounds his concept of hacker noir, discussing how hacker heuretics invent new forms and practices through playful interactions (interventions) with a medium, which in turn shape the digital tools we now use and play with daily. His examination of play within electrate environments showcases many of its dichotomies-play/work, pleasure/pain, productivity/consumption, real/virtual. This, in turn, complicates the deep connections that occur across what he calls the ludic transversal, which is inherent in electrate environments and in being electrate.

In examining the history of computing (informatics), he highlights the importance of exploration and play and shows how this play challenges and rewards work, which has important implications in life off the screen, as well as life on the screen. He uses hacker noir to explain how play with technology shapes one's electracy and helps create an electrate individual. The idea of the hack, as he explains it, resembles what I see occurring with the gamer modding subculture today. He discusses the hack as a form of play that has real implications for making improvements in an existing medium. In original hacker subculture, hacking allowed users to play with code to rewrite it to make new tools, not because they were tasked with doing a job, rather because they were challenged by the task and wanted to create something new. …

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